30 June, Mumbai
Wallah, habibi, I’m on the 1:55 am Jet flight to Dubai. Jet has 6 flights every single day between Mumbai and Dubai, the most of any airline, and everyone wants to know why I am taking this middle-of-the-night one. The plan is to get into Dubai even before the day starts, to make the most of every single moment. I’m not on work so I can get in any time I please and you know human psychology: there is no too early or too late when you are on holiday.
The Jet check-in at Mumbai. All makes for a very nice experience.
Check-in is flawless at the Jet counter in Mumbai’s fabulous airport. I make a surprising discovery: you can ask for a window seat in the Emergency Row at the counter and NOT have to pay for it, provided it is available at that moment. If you want to guarantee yourself a window seat on the emergency row, you have to book it in advance, for small fee of Rs 100. This was a happy discovery thanks to Rimmu Naqui, the smooth and agreeable officer at Jet Check-in who gave me a window seat and charged me nothing for it since it was available. This is a delightful difference from other airlines that demand upto a thousand Rupees for emergency row seats, (among other rows) no matter when you request them.
Rimmu Naqui is with Jet, but on the passenger’s side. Smooth and one more reason to grant Jet my loyalty.
I see my flight’s cabin crew board the plane. Jet crew look swish with their canary yellow smocks, which is a nice feeling because other airlines haven’t cracked their crew dressage quite like Jet has. I notice a flurry of unobtrusive Jet airport crew activity, including one smart chap who walked to near where I was to doublecheck that the information on the board was right. We usually miss this because we don’t know it happens. Come boarding time, we took the bus to the plane, which was parked some distance from the terminal, and very close to the runway as it turned out. Jet craft look twice as pretty at night, if you ask me. All aircraft do, in fact, but some airlines have actually taken the trouble to mess up the impact of their planes with lackluster livery.
Jet is fastidious with the paintwork. A good sign, always.
I realise that I am in the wrong seat when a very sweet gentleman says to me: “Sorry Sir my seat.” That’s when I remember I have got myself this trophy Emergency Row window seat. I apologise as much as I can and as it turns out I make a friend.
As the doors are closed it is obvious that the middle seat is vacant for the flight and my newfound pal in the aisle seat is as pleased as I am with that little bit of elbow room. He uses the space to launch into conversation: He wants me to know he missed the earlier flight and Jet very kindly accommodated him on this one and that he will still make it to an important meeting on time and that there was so much traffic from Vasai he had no choice but to get late and my god how happy he is that it all worked out.
The inflight announcement reveals the flight crew are both ladies. My fellow passenger is charmed: “Both pilots ladies! Wah!” he whispers to me. I realise I have a bonafide humsafar for the flight, and that he has decided I deserve an update on his every passing thought, and has presumed that this will bring me as much delight as it does him.
Meal service begins in earnest the moment the flight levels out. I’ve flown enough to never expect any gastronomic delights in any airline’s Economy Class. Besides, this is the middle of the night. But I’ve carefully called earlier and received confirmation that an Arabic biryani is reserved for me. So I’ve skipped dinner, with plans to indulge. Jet doesn’t stint on meals: the Jet menu offers 25 types of meals, so you can get exactly what you need, be it Cholesterol-Free, Jain, Oriental or Continental. Child Meals are also available. There is also a Low Fat option, which I should be having, promised my doctor I would be having, and most certainly won’t.
Yum enough at 230 am.
Lights soon dimmed for sleep and me and my fellow passenger are in our little pools of overhead reading light, just browsing the magazine. Something small and meaningful now happens, the kind of inventive crew move that displays the finesse of a mature service culture and that Jet meets the mark: the airhostess arrives, smiling broadly, bearing gifts, so to speak, and presents me with a fine plate of cut fruit and a solid block of sinfully fabulous chocolate cake. My missing meal is more than rectified. But she does more, and this is the part that absolutely delights me: because great service doesn’t alienate one passenger when pleasing another, my fellow passenger gets a complimentary plate for himself too. This floors him completely and he looks like he won a jackpot. He is now shooting me grateful glances! He polishes off his treat so fast I think he does more justice to it than I am doing. Soon, with the service cleared, I am beginning to settle into a little nap when my humsafar taps me on my arm. What now? “Verrrrrry good cake,” he wants me to know. His delight makes me twice as pleased. In an extremely endearing way, he wants to express some kind of acknowledgement to me that he ended up thoroughly enjoying the unexpected treat and doesn’t know how to say it without suggesting that me not getting the meal I was expecting was certainly worth it!
Unexpected, and totally welcome ‘make nice’ gesture …. very Jet!
Tuesday, 5 July, 8 pm DXB
I webcheckin from my hotel in Dubai and realise this gives me a little more Dubai time. With a 5.00 am flight, a webcheck in give you time till 4.00 am, so I can treat myself to a little more snooze. I get in a tad early anyway, to make sure I’m on the good side of things.
The JET Counters at Terminal 1 are businesslike and exactly like the others, but, being as they are in Row 2 and closest to the entry gate, a relief from trekking vast acres of airport real estate.
I am in Business Class for the flight back to Mumbai, and it proves to be a clear notch up from the word go. Sukanya, the seniormost supervisor on the shift, is a dream; she doesn’t just tell you a problem, she helps solve it. Problem: my solitary piece of check-in baggage is over the allowed weight for a single piece of baggage, and she guides me on getting a new bag from the shopping section off the departure Hall and checking both in. I have always wondered at the ’32 kg’ check in rule and in conversation Sukanya explains that there is a global stipulation that 32 kgs, is the maximum weight a loader can tote when moving a single bag and Dubai follows it scrupulously. A long-standing question answered.
The Marhaba Lounge, open to Jet Premiere and First passengers, is everything you want from a quick respite before a flight. Or between. Large, comfortable seating, a well-replenished buffet and a decent collection of spirits. At 3:30 am there is no shortage of enthusiastic imbibers, and there is that unique brotherhood that all men at a bar develop in a microsecond. Everyone is making the most of …. free wifi at a decent speed.
Leather. Lots of it. With a at-your-fingertips seat-button console.
Banana energy drink. Vroom!
I sleep. When I am briefly awake, breakfast service has already begin and a cabin crew materialises and asks if I’d like my breakfast now or later. Nice. I pick later and drift off and when I awake, the lady is right there with a refreshing hot towel. My breakfast arrives in a trice and its good enough for me to finish even though I’m just peckish. Score one for the menu.